Admission Plans


When a student enters the landscape of college admissions, s/he will encounter several options regarding just how one applies to a college or university.  Presented below are these options with an explanation of just how each works:


Schools establish a deadline either in the winter (the military academies are the earliest—their deadlines are actually in the fall—while many of the more selective schools use January 1) or in the spring.  All application materials must be received by this deadline.  No decisions on admissions are rendered until all applications are processed and read.  Consequently, one may not hear about one’s admissions fate until April from a school with a January 1 submission deadline.  Virtually all colleges and universities subscribe to what is called the Candidate Reply Date Agreement (CRDA), established by The College Board and allowing accepted students until May 1 to respond to the offer of admission


Schools receive applications starting in the fall and make acceptance decisions as materials are processed and read.  Some colleges actually review application materials as they are received on a case-by-case basis.  Other schools render admissions decisions at the end of each month, reading those folders that have submitted by that time.  Under a rolling admissions plan, then, it is most certainly better to complete and submit one’s application as early as possible.  One’s application will encounter less “competition” the earlier it is received—and if you choose to accept the offer of admission right after it is tendered, you will have first crack at housing preferences and a larger pool of financial aid which may be yours.  Students are not, however, bound to accept an offer of admission post haste.  Virtually all schools with a rolling admissions plan also subscribe to the CRDA, so one can wait to see what other offers arrive and wait until ay 1 for a final decision

How to compare regular with rolling admissions?  Let’s use an analogy from athletics.  Suppose you are a swim coach and you have been asked to assemble a swim team from scratch.  There are two ways you could accomplish this: establish a baseline time that individual swimmers must meet to join the squad or test each swimmer individually so that you can take the best from the group.  The first approach is rolling admissions—the baseline is set and any swimmer (applicant) who meets the criterion makes the team (gets accepted).  The second is regular admissions—each swimmer (applicant) receives an individual time trial and the ones with the fastest times make the team (get accepted).  Of course under neither scenario would our coach (admissions director) have an unlimited number of spaces available on the team (in the college).  There will always be some darned good swimmers (students) who may have met the time criterion but could not be offered a place on the team (in the college) because of space considerations.  This is yet another reinforcement for an expedient rolling admissions application (the earlier, the better) as well as a reflection on how competitive the best swim teams (selective colleges) can be


Schools establish a cut-off date for applications in the fall (some as early as November 1), in the winter or in both (Swarthmore, for instance, has both a Fall ED and a Winter ED plan) for the receipt of all application materials.  In return, the applicant is placed in a special, smaller pool, acceptance decisions for which follow in from four to six weeks (typically before high schools break for winter recess).  To gain this benefit of early consideration, though, the applicant is informed that an offer of admission under ED is binding—if you are admitted to a school as an ED candidate, you are obligated to attend that school.  Additionally, because of the binding nature of ED acceptance offers, a student may apply to only one school under an ED plan.  This does not mean that a student can apply to just one school!  One may apply to any number of other schools under regular admissions, rolling admissions or Early Action (EA—see below) plans.  The student must, however, agree to withdraw other applications if submitted if admitted under an ED plan—one cannot wait to see what other offers may obtain and then try to wiggle out of one’s ED commitment


Students receive the benefits of an ED plan but without the binding commitment under Early Action.  Fall or winter deadlines, smaller pools, four to six weeks until decision rendered—but no obligation to attend if admitted.  Students may submit multiple EA applications—there is in fact no down side to applying under an EA plan


There are five schools with this plan under which a student submits early under specific conditions (as noted below) but is not obligated to attend:

Susquehanna University – only legacies may apply EA; 

Boston College and Georgetown – students who apply EA may not apply to an ED plan at any other school;

Yale and Stanford – students who apply EA may not apply to any other early plan (ED or EA) at any other school

Happy Application Season!